Aircraft carriers continue to be an important part of all major blue water navies
 
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Aircraft carriers continue to be an important part of all major blue water navies
 

Cmde Anil Jai Singh (retd) Cmde Anil Jai Singh (retd)

An aircraft carrier, while on the one hand a navy’s most valuable asset, is at the same time also its most vulnerable one. Its usefulness in maritime warfare has been proved time and again, be it the two World Wars (it was the decisive factor in the Allied victory in the Pacific), INS Vikrant’s exploits in shaping the course of battle in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 or the presence of the British aircraft carriers, HMS Hermes and Invincible in the Falklands in 1982.

Subsequently, too, they have been used to good effect in various trouble spots around the world. However, the debate about their efficacy still rages and is almost as old as the aircraft carrier itself. That notwithstanding, there is no denying the fact that the aircraft carrier remains the most powerful symbol of a country’s maritime power and is the most credible manifestation of a navy’s blue water capability.

It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the US, the most dominant naval power in the world, has more aircraft carriers than the rest of the world combined and they continue to invest in increasingly more powerful platforms, budgetary pressures notwithstanding. It should also not be any surprise that each of the US Navy’s aircraft carriers is larger than the next largest aircraft carrier in the world.

It is also ironical that despite the death knell of the carrier having been sounded many a time including the oft-repeated allegation that navies continue to prepare for yesterday’s war, it has come back larger and more powerful than ever before. A quick glance at the current aircraft carrier operating navies would substantiate this point.

The US Navy has a carrier-based global footprint. It has 10 nuclear powered aircraft carriers in commission and the latest, Gerald R Ford, will soon be operationally deployed. Each of these carriers is bristling with cutting-edge technology, its size making it a veritable airbase at sea with the ability to deliver debilitating kinetic effect.

INS Vikramaditya and INS Viraat accompanied by the western naval fleet ships
INS Vikramaditya and INS Viraat accompanied by the western naval fleet ships

 
 
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